Autumn is the time of festivals for Delhiwalas. The week long Mughal days festival ‘Phool Waalon Ki Sair’ is being celebrated by the citizens since 1812. The festival was held for the first time during the reign of Akbar Shah II, who was on the throne of Delhi from 1808 to 1837. Akbar Shah II, was not happy with his eldest son Siraj Uddin Zafar and wanted to nominate his younger son, Mirza Jahangir as the heir apparent. This move was not liked by the then British Resident in the Red Fort, Sir Archibald Seton. Once, Mirza Jahangir, a reckless youth of about 17 years of age, insulted Seton in open court and called him “(Looloo hai bey)”. After a few days when Mirza Jahangir was merry-making on the roof of Naubat Khana in Red Fort and Sir Archibald Seton was coming on an elephant after an audience with the king at the Diwan- e-Khas, Mirza Jahangir fired a shot at the Resident. Seton escaped but his orderly was killed.
For this act of his, Mirza Jahangir was exiled to Allahabad the under the orders of Seton. Queen Mumtaz Mahal Begum, his mother, took a vow that if her son was released she would offer a “Chaadar” of flowers at the Durgaah of Khwaajaa Bakhtiar Kaaki at Mehrauli. After a couple of years, Mirza Jahangir was released and, like a devout lady, Mumtaz Mahal Begum went to Mehrauli to redeem her vow. With her the Imperial Court also shifted to Mehrauli and so did the entire population of Delhi.
For 7 days all sorts of merry-making continued at Mehrauli. With great pomp and show a “Chaadar” of flowers was offered at the Durgaah of Khwaajaa Bakhtiar Kaaki and floral offerings were made simultaneously, under orders of the emperor, at the famous temple of Yogmaya Ji. Seeing the response of the people and the enthusiasm generated, it was decided that the festival will be held annually after the rains at Mehrauli and people of all communities will offer Pankhaas at the Durgaah of Bakhtiar Kaaki and Yogmaya Ji Temple. The festival reached its pinnacle during the reign of Siraj-uddin-Zafar, known as Bahaadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor who went to Mehrauli to celebrate Phool Waalon Ki Sair even in 1857 when Delhi was under siege of the British. This was the last Phool Waalon Ki Sair under the Mughals.
The festival continued to be celebrated even after 1857 by the British Deputy. Commissioner, he being the highest functionary in Delhi, with the help of some prominent citizens. The festival was stopped by the British during ‘Quit India Movement’ of Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 in pursuance of their” divide-and- rule policy.
Our revered leader late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru revived the festival in 1961 which is since then being organised by Anjuman Sair-E-Gul Faroshan every year at Mehrauli. At the invitation of Mr. Noor Uddin Ahmed, the then Mayor and Shri Yogeshwar Dayal, when Panditji visited Mehrauli in 1961, only a couple of thousand people greeted him. Now more than a lac of people participate in the mela. The monuments connected with the festival & particularly the venue of the main fuction Jahaaz Mahal are gaily decorated and lighted. The paticipating States join the procession of Pankhaas starting from Jharnaa Via Jahaaz Mahal through the streets of Mehrauli to the Durgaah & the Temple. Wrestling bouts, kite flying competitions, swimming feats, gaily decorated shops are the side attractions.
The festival was further broad-based during the prime ministership of Smt. Indira Gandhi and more then 3/4th of India now participates in the festival; different States of the country send two Pankhaas each with their cultural troupes to join the procession of Pankhaas to be offered jointly by members of all communities at the Durgaah of Khwaa Bakhtiar Kaaki and the Temple of Yogmaya Ji.
Sahaytya Kala Parishat on the theme of amity and goodwill, and whole night Qawwaali session by famous Qawwaals of the country continue till 5 a.m. in the morning.